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Protest over South Point High School's 'Red Raider' mascot

Retire the red mascot.jpeg
Elvis Menayese
A crowd gathered at the Gaston County Schools board meeting on Oct. 17, 2022, to protest the "Red Raider" mascot at South Point High School.

Protesters gathered ahead of the Gaston County Schools board meeting Monday night to demand the removal of a Belmont high school’s mascot.

The South Point High School mascot is a profile of a Native American man in bright red, known as the “Red Raider."

Native tribal members, parents, and students have been asking for several years for the school board and administrators to change the mascot.

Monday's protest was organized, in part, by Metrolina Native American Association.

Angeles White, of the Puyallup tribe, voiced her concerns about the mascot and its inaccurate portrayal of Native Americans.

"It's supposed to be a native man with a red-painted face and a big nose. If you look at any Native Americans today, we do not look like that. We never had," White said.

White’s mother, Becky Rice Gaither, also addressed the board.

Gaither, a Native American mother of three, currently has a child that attends Belmont Middle School. She said she is concerned about sending her child to South Point High School because of the negativity associated with the mascot.

She said she has made repeated attempts to communicate with the board with little to no response.

“They haven’t chosen to have a discussion with us or even talk to us,” Gaither said. “So, I have emailed them, I’ve called, I’ve just tried to at least be a concerned parent and try to get a discussion to let them know how offensive the mascot is.”

Group of Native Americans.jpeg
Elvis Menayese
Tribal members Becky Rice Gaither (left), Angeles White, and her young daughter wore Native American attire at the Oct. 17 protest.

At Monday's protest was James E. Ford, the executive director of the North Carolina-based nonprofit Center for Racial Equity in Education.

“As an African American, we know full well the impact racist and negative stereotypes. We’ve experienced that,” said Ford. “Anytime we see that occurring, we have an obligation, my organization stands against racism, and racial inequities within education. So, this is but one representation of how those things continue to prevail.”

Ford carried a poster featuring an image of the mascot that read, "Stop Teaching your Children Racism."

James Ford.jpeg
Elvis Menayese
James Ford's poster calling for the removal of the mascot reads, "Stop Teaching Your Children Racism."

Prior to the protest, Superintendent Jeffrey Booker and Principal Gary Ford were asked by a WFAE reporter if they planned to hold any community discussion surrounding the mascot, but they failed to respond.

A Change.org petition calling for the removal of the mascot has received more than 11,000 signatures. So far, no decision has been made, and the "Red Raider" mascot remains.

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Major support for WFAE's Race & Equity Team comes from Novant Health and Wells Fargo.

Elvis Menayese is a Report for America corps member covering issues involving race and equity for WFAE. He previously was a member of the Queens University News Service. Major support for WFAE's Race & Equity Team comes from Novant Health and Wells Fargo.